Essentially, performance execution consists of two major responsibilities for the manager. The first is to create the conditions that motivate people to perform at an excellent level. The other is to eliminate performance problems when they arise. The manager also has some other responsibilities in the performance execution phase of the process. They are:
- Maintaining performance records
- Updating objectives as conditions change
- Providing feedback and coaching for success
- Providing development experiences and opportunities
- Reinforcing effective behavior
- Conducting a midterm review meeting
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Maintaining Performance Records. Every manager has to keep track of how well the people in the department are doing. Too often, managers wait until the time for performance appraisal rolls around to discover that they can only remember what Sam or Melinda did in the last six weeks or so. That’s why it’s important to maintain good records of individuals’ performance during the entire year.
Don’t make the mistake of only keeping track of performance problems. Your records should include examples of both results and behaviors that caused you concern, as well as those that were right on target.
Updating Objectives as Conditions Change. Over the course of a year, projects will be completed and the individual will move on to the next requirement. Some projects will be altered from the expectations and requirements that were set at the start. Others will be abandoned.
It’s important for the manager to regularly check on the projects, goals, and objectives that he and the individual agreed on during the performance-planning meeting. There are few situations more awkward for a manager than to have a subordinate come up and say, ‘‘We’re ready to launch the new quality initiative!’’ when that initiative was scrapped at a higher level months before.
Every month or two, pull out the performance appraisal form with all the notes on it that the individual took during the performance-planning meeting. Read over the goals, objectives, and key responsibilities to make sure that they are as appropriate today as they were when the plan was set. If a project has been completed, note when it was finished, what the results were, and how well the individual performed. If a goal needs to be revised, get together with the individual who’s responsible for it and explain the new requirements. If an objective needs to be moved up or down the priority scale, move it.
Providing Feedback and Coaching for Success. Unless someone tells them differently, most people believe that they are doing a good job and are meeting the organization’s expectations. Providing routine and ongoing feedback is one of the characteristics of an effective manager.
Ideally, people should be able to track their performance independently of their manager’s feedback. But good managers make a practice of consistently letting people know just what they are looking for and how their performance measures up.
Providing Developmental Experiences and Opportunities. People develop when they are presented with challenging situations, when they successfully complete the demands posed by those challenging situations, and when they reflect on what they did well and what they would do differently the next time a similar situation arises.
Managers can accelerate the development of their people by making sure that they are intentionally presented with situations that will force them to learn and to grow.
Reinforcing Effective Behavior. Years ago, in one of the first rigorous studies of what works in performance appraisal and what doesn’t, General Electric discovered that criticism of an individual’s performance doesn’t usually result in significant performance improvement. What does work, the GE researchers found, was reinforcing the individual’s strengths and encouraging him to make even more use of those skills that were particularly well developed.
Things haven’t changed from that original study of fifty years ago. Building on strengths almost always provides better performance than trying to shore up weaknesses.
Of course, people problems have to be identified and resolved. But managers usually get a higher payoff from reinforcing those things that people are doing particularly well than by continually harping on their deficiencies.
Conducting a Midterm Review. While ongoing, informal feedback is essential for effective job performance, a more formal midcycle review is a powerful technique for ensuring that people’s performance stays on track.